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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Great BREAKING GLASS bookmark giveaway starts today!

Announcing the great BREAKING GLASS handmade bookmark giveaway. To enter see below!

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Breaking Glass has a Facebook page...

I hope you'll come and check it out.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Breaking-Glass-the-book/488130164558455


2012: It was the best of years, it was the worst of years...

In honor of the year ahead, I gave my blog a makeover. What do you think? I'm trying to unify my *brand* as they call it.

2012 was a strange year spent it with the vague (and ultimately non-existent) threat of a Mayan apocalypse. Instead some truly apocalyptic things happened--the Japanese tsunami, multiple mass shootings--including the Sandy Hook horror, and of course, not to be outdone Hurricane Sandy. That hurricane still has the northeast reeling from the damage, though we here in the Bronx were mostly unscathed.

My parents' health was shaky all year, finally, thank goodness, stabilizing. Then of course we had to endure the slow torture of the election from hell. And now, the lovely fiscal cliff, which as of this posting, we may or may not be heading over in a barrel.

Yet, for me, 2012 was an amazing year. In February Spencer Hill Press bought my book BREAKING GLASS, and bought VISION and a sequel in October. I have been given the opportunity to do some  cover design work for both SHP and indie authors. The Spencer Hill family is an incredible addition to my life. I've met a group of wonderful authors, and of course, my invincible editor, Vikki Ciaffone.

For me, writing and cover design are a waltz with two lovers. They both fulfill me to my core. So who can ask for more?

I face 2013 with a little bit of fear, a little bit of exhilaration. This spring both my kids face new milestones--my son graduates college (hopefully) and my daughter, high school. My book releases in July.

I will be doing a lot of cool BREAKING GLASS related stuff, including some giveaways. And, my awesome super prolific Hamster twin (because we are both hyper enough to power the northeast with our hamster wheels) Michelle McLean and I (along with 21 others) will soon be rolling out a brand new blog for 2013 releases called Scene 13--so stay tuned for that.

On that note, I wish all of you for 2013 only the best of times.

May all your wishes come true.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Some thoughts on a tragedy from a friend

I've been posting my thoughts about this past week's horrific event, here and there and helter skelter. Today I received an articulate and heartfelt email from an old friend, Stephen Crooks, and I wanted to share it here...

from Stephen Crooks FELIS <scrooks@felis.com > :

Remember the last time you took a bad fall, cut yourself in the toolroom, or rapped your headbone in some big, stupid way? Maybe in a ball-field or a car accident or somesuch? The impetus is to be very still, right? Breath coming slow and shallow, feeling around for lingering damage or dizziness, assessing the situation.

This horrid week has been so much like that, a damaging, lacerating blow to the nation's midsection, causing us to stop, hold our breath and examine the way we feel about ourselves and each other. To assess the situation. At this time of thoughtful sorrow and of sorrowful thought, I imagine that people should be entitled to their own space, to work it all out for themselves; each in their own way and time. People are hearing so much talk. I think, "Who needs me running off at the mouth?"

But there I was a day or so ago, listening to the President, declaring with grim determination that assault rifles and handguns a 'threat to national security', committing his energies to going 'door to door and getting the guns'.

President Obama's tearful broadcast? Unfortunately, no. The face and voice was that of fictional President Andrew Shephard, movingly portrayed by the actor Michael Douglas in a movie made nearly twenty years ago. Draw your own conclusions.

Look, I understand what some people are saying, how we should refrain from 'politicizing' this fathomless horror in Newtown, this senseless loss of innocence and future and human promise, this waterfall of tears. That we should put aside current events and just pray, for both the victims and the survivors.

Of course we should. For all of about twenty silent seconds.

Then, immediately, before our national shock can wear off to be replaced with the next callous holiday-season headline, we should consider a nation where budget trimming would allow the desperate and the mentally ill to fall between the cracks of care until it's too late, that allows the senseless proliferation of deadly weapons to go unchecked, that still believes uniforms and badges and fear of punishment will keep bad people from doing bad things. Godalmighty, I love and respect our policemen, but do even they believe that anymore?

We yearn to punish the guilty but can't, because the terrible demons that drove this unstable young Connecticut man have already punished him to death. What's left to us in this moment, without shame or hesitation, is to become a nation of mourners, praying for the souls of the departed, praying for the safety of our own children, praying for our nation. And praying for peace of heart and clarity of thought.

Because in the next moment, driven as always to either our worst or our best instincts, we can become a nation of rage, or of mercy; of blind punishers or of clear-eyed problem-solvers. A nation of grieving hindsight, or of creative humanistic forethought.

Perhaps it's the primitive bloodlust of human nature to look for the nearest rope and tree at a time like this; to curl our lips around gutsy epithets like 'I hope this so-and-so rots in Hell,' (despite the fact that this in the season of Jesus and Mary and 'Mercy mild'). But it doesn't take guts to punish a sick pathetic man any more than it takes guts to shoot a mad dog, does it?

You want to show guts? Puff up your collective chests, curl those lips and talk tough to your elected representatives; tell them to keep us safe from the prevalence of deadly weapons in the midst of our families and communities. Talk tough to those who think that the way to 'fiscal responsibility' is by denying care to those teetering on the hard edges of our society who need it. Show some real guts.

Whenever there is a tragic loss of life we are staggered and diminished, behaving as if there are much, much less people left on the Earth; a veritable hole in the population, causing the world itself to wobble on its axis for the lesser weight of human souls. Although of course this cannot be the case.

But I say we can behave as if it is; we can take what we have left, all the few billion souls remaining, bind them with our arms and hold them close to our hearts and never, ever let them stray from our loving attention.

It's challenging to think this way, and that's reason enough alone to do so: to consider those lost terrorized schoolchildren just as we consider the lost terrorized young man who slew them, their teachers and protectors, his own family. The murderer and the murdered, all of them created equally perfect and full of promise as you or me or any newborn child in a manger in Bethlehem, a nursery in Waukegan or a doorstep in South Philadelphia, but gone from our care, concern and community, from our binding arms, far too soon.

What do we owe them? Them and all of the beloved lost children of our lives? Ever in our thoughts, our words, our deeds, our philosophies and politics and religions and societies; we owe them our best. Our best, whatever meaning that word has for you. Through all of the new opportunities of this coming new year, stacked high and gleaming before us like unopened gifts, will we honor them by rising to it?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Great Spencer Hill Press Holiday Cheer-Away Give-Away (contest)


We are giving away three awesome prize bags to three very lucky people. Just in time for the holiday season, too. Our present to you.




GRAND PRIZE Holiday Cheer Away Holiday Giveaway Bag (Not everything is in pic)
Books:
TOUCH OF DEATH
One Spencer Hill Press book (winner's choice--can include soon to be release selections)
Jewelery:
Bracelet
TOUCH OF DEATH Handcrafted Pendant- www.stainedglasscreationsandbeyond.com
Handcrafted Necklace and Earrings
So Many Books, So Little Time Necklace
Giftcards:
$20 Amazon or Barnes and Nobel (Winner's Choice)
$15 Starbucks
Two $10 Amazon
Critiques:
First Chapter Critique-Mary Gray
First Chapter Critique-Rhys A Jones
Query Letter Critique-Trisha Wolfe
Cool Stuff:
GUARDIAN T-shirt
BETRAYED Fridge Magnet
Flashlight
Ornaments
Holiday Towel and Potholder
Candy- nom nom nom
Swag:
BREAKING GLASS Handcrafted Bookmark
FINN FINNEGAN Handcrafted Charmed Bookmark- www.stainedglasscreationsandbeyond.com
PERFECTION
TOUCH OF DEATH
FINN FINNEGAN
BETRAYED
ANGELINA'S SECRET
COPPER GIRL
OTHER TREE
PODs
SECOND PRIZE Holiday Cheer Away Holiday Giveaway Bag (not everything is in pic)

Books:
ANGELINA'S SECRET - 1st edition signed copy
Jewelery:
Bracelet
TOUCH OF DEATH Handcrafted Pendant- www.stainedglasscreationsandbeyond.com
Earrings
Giftcards:
$10 Amazon or Barnes and Nobel (Winner's Choice)
$15 Starbucks
$10 Amazon
Critiques:
First Chapter Critique-Trisha Wolfe
First Chapter Critique (2500 Words Max)-Elizabeth Langston
Query Letter Critique-Kimberly Ann Miller
Cool Stuff:
BETRAYED Fridge Magnet
Flashlight
Ornaments
Holiday Towel and Potholder
Candy- NOM NOM NOM
Swag:
FINN FINNEGAN Handcrafted Charmed Bookmark- www.stainedglasscreationsandbeyond.com
PERFECTION
TOUCH OF DEATH
FINN FINNEGAN
BETRAYED
ANGELINA'S SECRET
COPPER GIRL
OTHER TREE
PODs
THIRD PRIZE Holiday Cheer Away Holiday Giveaway
Critiques:
First five pages--Sarah Guillory
First 250 word-DK Mok
Either query or first 250 word critique (your choice)--Michelle Pickett
Please note: The giveaway is from Dec. 3rd to Dec. 16
                    Open to US and Canadian Residents only. Sorry to all our international friends.
                    

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Guest post from YA author Lena Goldfinch, my cover design protege

-->

--> Creating a book cover is not unlike writing fantasy 
I love creating book covers and have been making mock covers for my work for years. Recently though, I've gotten more serious about it and Lisa Amowitz graciously offered to mentor me. She's been helping me develop some cover mojo. (Thanks, Sensei Lisa! :))
The process of creating a cover feels a lot like creating a book, actually. You take these disparate elements, tweak and mold them to suit the story, and, after you sprinkle them with magical Photoshop fairy dust, voila, you have a book cover! LOL
For me, it starts out with hunting down images, which is mostly an instinctive, gut-level thing. I browse stock photo sites for likely candidates. [Picture me in attractive jungle gear, wading through the dense, jungle-green undergrowth of the internet, searching for rare orchid-like images.] Here, I'm searching for a "click" of connection. I'm looking for tone: does it feel like the story, does she look like my character, is the image eye catching, romantic, are the colors evocative...?
And until I find that spark, I just start tenderly collecting samples in orchid-friendly storage containers (i.e. dumping them into my Favorites folders). A lot of time I don't know what's going to work until I try a billion things. Roughly.
Sources: For stock photo and images, I tend to go to Fotolia, iStockphoto, Flickr Creative Commons and deviantART the most.
Then comes lots of trial and error, trying different images and fonts as mock covers. And here's where I start collecting free fonts too. (I blame Lisa for my font addiction, pretty much ;) She's the one who pointed me to FontSquirrel and dafont.com.)
Here's a (much reduced) sampling of likely images for my romantic fantasy novella, The Language of Souls
From these, I threw together a bunch of designs and, from there, whittled it down to a short list:

And I selected one. (bottom right) Oh, I was so sure it was the one. I'd spent (roughly) forever working on it after all. There'd been a lot of endless tweaking involved and me with very bloodshot eyes. (Cultivating a rare and beautiful orchid is a lot of hard work, to stretch a metaphor. ;)) But then I started to question myself. I really felt I needed some input from teens, the very ones I wanted to read my book.
So I printed out sample sheets & posted them at the barn where my daughter rides and our local teen librarian let me post it on the bulletin board. My daughter and a friend also brought copies in to their high schools to get votes. The results were startling, for me anyway! The cover I'd chosen didn't get great results. It got a decent number of votes, but nothing like the bottom left cover, which was the overwhelming favorite. I love that design, but had initially discarded it because I felt it was too light. Amazon.com & all the other retailers have a white background, and I feared a pale image would get lost there.

Here's how the votes played out:

I decided if I was going to ask the teens, then I was going to LISTEN to them. Teens know what they like, and I value their opinion.
My new motto:
"Ask the teens, trust the teens."
But if I was going to listen to the teens that meant going with a cover I felt (strongly) was way too light. My next question was: how can I stand by my motto & also address my concerns that this cover will get lost on the white sea that is Amazon's background? (Ditto for Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo,, ... the same white background issue is pretty much everywhere.) 

Decision: I'm going to listen to the teens AND I'm also going to listen to my gut.

Q: How can I make this very pale design pop on a white page? (Above, which cover pops the most? It's not the pale tree cover, is it? Which one do you think stands out the most as a thumbnail?)
So I began playing with magical fairy dust...I mean, Photoshop. ;)
To back up a bit, there are actually two elements in the draft version of this cover & three elements in the final cover.
The girl in the dress, the tree reflected in rippled water, and an additional image, wherein I added hair extensions. :)
    
That last image is shown rotated and flipped, just as I used it. I was able to lengthen the girl's hair a bit with a handy application of the Stamp Tool, which Lisa introduced me to a while back. I also flipped the image of the girl, so the arc of her body echoed the tree line.
Clipping and trimming the source file for the girl was actually the most time-intensive part of this design. Looking back, I learned from this. In selecting images, how hard is it going to be to select, for example, just the girl? See how her hair blends in with the dark background above the blue sheet? Lesson from the newly wise: look for these things while selecting raw images! LOL
Anyway, I was able to isolate just the girl using the Magic Wand Tool. (Aha!!! Magic!! I told you! ;)) And I dropped her into that pretty tree background. Then used the Stamp tool, as I said, to lengthen her hair. I also tweaked the brightness and contrast, edited out that hair that was across her face, and etc...
I used a Mask on the girl's layer in Photoshop to select just the dress. That way I was able to adjust the  hue & contrast to modify the color (among other tools like Selective Color, Curves, and blending options like Luminosity). I played with fonts and text colors...
This led to a slew of new covers:
The one that popped the best for me—and also felt most like the story—was that last peachy-toned one.

Fast forward, and after much tweaking, here's the final cover:

And that is the story behind the cover design for The Language of Souls, complete with magic wands and fairy dust. And belabored orchid analogies. :)
Thanks for having me here, Lisa! And unbridled thanks for all your guidance in all things graphics design. I feel very much like I'm still in the apprentice stage and am looking forward to growing my skills.

Lena

Thanks for doing this Lena! It's been fun to work with you and to see your skills blossom.
You can visit Lena and find more information about THE LANGUAGE OD SOULS at:
Lena also blogs at the Enchanted Inkpot, a community of fantasy bloggers of which I am also a member:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How important is setting when crafting a story


Blog Chain Post #4 (a week and a day late!)

How important is setting when crafting a story? How do you choose where your stories take place? How do you research setting? Do you have to have been somewhere in order to write about it? What are some memorable settings from books you've read?

The above photo is a picture of the town of Croton-on-Hudson, New York, the real life inspiration for the fictional town of Riverton from my forthcoming novel BREAKING GLASS.

So to answer the question posed above, for BREAKING GLASS, the setting is pretty much a character in the book. Croton is a quasi-suburban, fairly upscale community about 50 minutes north of New York City. It overlooks the Hudson River and also has miles of forested roads that weave past the reservoirs that give Westchester County its drinking water. Croton has a river, a damn and a gorge. It feels like the country, but its residents are an interesting bumch, largely commuters to the city. It has an intrigue and a mystery all its own, which made it the ideal setting for the spooky goings on of BREAKING GLASS. Geeky Jeremy and his lawyer dad would fit right in in Croton.

One of the reasons, I suppose, setting is so important to me is that I am such a visual person. As I write, I picture the scenario and take a lot of time to paint the image in the reader's mind. But I am usually quite unconcerned with accuracy. I simply use real locations as a starting point and then embellish at will. I tend to stick with places I've been and notice most of my writing friends do the same. Creating a sense of place is more than just looking at photos or watching movies. You need to understand the smell, feel and sounds of the place. For instance, my friend Heidi Ayarbe sets most of her books in Carson City, Nevada. The desert plays a huge part in her books. Though her vivid descriptions help me picture it, I wouldn't know enough about the vegetation and terrain to write convincingly about it.

Memorable settings? It seems I'm always falling back on this, but I still don't think there is a more memorable setting than Hogwarts! And that was before the movie--which captured it exactly as JK described it.

For more insights regarding the part setting plays in one's writing check out Michelle McLean's blog.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Blog Chain post #3 Writing Goals

Sandra started this week's chain with the question:  

During National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), writers attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Do you set daily writing goals for yourself, either a certain word count or time spent on writing? Does this include other writing-related activities, like research, plotting, or revising? Do you focus on reaching the end of the journey (such as finishing your current project), or do you enjoy the writing process along the way?


Having read Katrina's preceding response to this chain, I have to say--I'm not that different from her, though I don't even have the great excuse she has! My kids are nearly grown (one a senior in college, the other in high school) but between my responsibilities as a professor of graphic design and deputy chairperson, my freelance book cover design business, figuring out how to promote my forthcoming book, BREAKING GLASS, and everything else, my writing is sporadic. I do, however try to write every day, even if it's just tweaking the same dang paragraph over and over.

Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I get on a roll and I can spew out three or four chapters in a day. Last month and this month, my concentration has been sorely tested--first by the sale of another book to Spencer Hill Press, VISION, for 2014, then by some crazy stuff at work, THEN by Superstorm Sandy, which though it didn't affect my electricity, basically shorted out my brain for an entire week. Then came Election Day--so now, this Saturday (after posting a day late) I am feeling like I may have things back under control. Now the words are beginning to flow again.

At my best, I can knock at an entire first draft in two weeks. I actually did this with BREAKING GLASS back in June 2011. My good friend and critmate, Kate Milford challenged me to finish the ms I was basically nursing for six months and had only gotten to chapter 8. Well--in two weeks I DID finish that baby. And, to top that, I wrote the entire first draft of VISION in the month of January 2012. So, for me, I guess the question is focus.

For LIFE AND BETH, the old ms I am completely rewriting, I'm having some gnarly plot issues, which, I am hoping if I can wade through, I can wrap this baby up before the year's end.

This is for Michelle. Hang in there, Hammy!
I now turn this blog chain over to my good friend and fellow "hamster" Michelle McLean, who is knee-deep in some serious output. I'm hoping her little hamster legs can keep running at the same crazy pace! She needs bionic hamster feet!!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The making of the EXTRACTED , (The Lost Imperials Book One) cover and cover reveal

The Making of the EXTRACTED cover.
 
What you're about to watch below is a sped up version of the full cover for EXTRACTED taking shape before your eyes. It is composed of about 25 high resolution images on 57 different layers put together in the program Photoshop. In Photoshop a layer interacts with the layer below in very specific ways, sometimes blending or inverting and sometimes masking parts of the image you want to hide. I am continually learning new tricks! Working in Photoshop is a little like being a wizard as you can make almost anything your mind can dream up a reality--and create something that surprises even you.
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
Now that you'd watched the cover unfold, want to know a little about the amazing EXTRACTED? 
 
The Tesla Institute is a premier academy that trains young time travelers called Rifters. Created by Nicola Tesla, the Institute seeks special individuals who can help preserve the time stream against those who try to alter it.
 
The Hollows is a rogue band of Rifters who tear through time with little care for the consequences. Armed with their own group of lost teens--their only desire to find Tesla and put an end to his corruption of the time stream.
 
Torn between them are Lex and Ember, two Rifters with no memories of their life before joining the time war.
 
When Lex’s girlfriend dies during a mission, the only way he can save her is to retrieve the Dox, a piece of tech which allows Rifters to re-enter their own timeline without collapsing the time stream. But the Dox is hidden deep within the Telsa Institute, which means Lex must go into the enemy camp. It’s there he meets Ember, and the past that was stolen from them both comes flooding back.
 
Now armed with the truth of who they are, Lex and Ember must work together to save the future before the battle for time destroys them both…again.

 
Extracted: The Lost Imperials (Book One)
by Sherry D. Ficklin & Tyler H. Jolley
to be released by Spencer Hill Press (www.spencerhillpress.com)
on
11/12/13 (cool date for a time-travel book, eh?)

Formats: Paper, e-book

Here are all the EXTRACTED links you'll ever want:
 
Visit the Lost Imperials Facebook page at:
 
website:
 
and find Sherry Ficklin on Goodreads at:
 
 
Now, you may think I'm silly, but my cover even makes me want to read this more. 
 
A cover designer strives to encapsulate the essence of the book into a memorable design combining distinctive images and typography. To do this, the artist must take the time to try and understand the atmosphere and style of the book as well as the target audience's tastes (since this is a marketing essential). A good cover creates a sort of "brand" for the book and constructs a framework for the reader to immerse themselves in. Authors understand this instinctively, and if the result is to their liking, are happy to embrace the artist's work as representative of their own creation. As an author myself, it is the greatest honor when another writer feels my design exemplifies their work.
 
If you want to learn more about my cover designs and follow new releases as they are revealed, you can visit my Facebook cover designer page at:
 
http://www.facebook.com/LisaAmowitzCoverDesigns
 
If you are interested in my forthcoming books from Spencer Hill Press,
BREAKING GLASS, July 2013 and VISION, May 2014 you can visit my Facebook author page at:
 
or my Goodreads author page at:
 
You can add BREAKING GLASS to your reading list on Goodreads, too. (and hopefully EXTRACTED will be on there soon as well).

 
 

 



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

THE CRIMSON CROWN release day interview with Cinda Chima


From Goodreads:
A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed--Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.
 
Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa "ana'"Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells' inner turmoil, Raisa's best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she's falling in love.
Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?
 

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie at last comes to light in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series.

Cinda blogs with me over at the Enchanted Inkpot, and I was completely unfamiliar with her work until this past summer. But one day at Barnes and Noble I recognized the name and decided to purchase the DEMON KING, the first book in the Seven Realms series. That was in late August. Since that day, less than two months ago, I have blazed through all three books in the series (THE EXILED QUEEN, THE GRAY WOLF THRONE). Given my rabid obsession, Cinda kindly took pity on me and sent me a copy of the forthcoming CRIMSON CROWN, the fourth and (final—man I wish it wasn’t) book in the series so I could review it. I devoured it in a day and a half. All 596 pages!
I am not usually an avid reader of high fantasy, though I am a great lover of Tolkein and GRACELING is a personal favorite of mine. But beyond that, I tend to stick to urban fantasy, paranormal thrillers and dystopics. Yet, somehow, improbably, THE DEMON KING hooked me immediately. It may have been the alternating POVs between wily pauper and street thief, Han Alister and the independent-minded mixed blood heir to the Gray Wolf Throne, the impetuous Raisa ‘anna Marianna.

Chima is some kind of grand-master world builder. It’s as though she herself is a weaver of the same magic she describes, constructing the world of the Seven Realms, so thoroughly and solid in its details, you can imagine yourself there. Chima’s Seven Realms is a world of magic, cruelty, clashing cultures and danger. It’s as full of political intrigue as any spy thriller. And it is also, at its heart, a beautifully moving love story—a tale of love denied, and love at last realized. The series can be brutal, filled with the cruel acts of the heartless blue-bloods committed against the hapless peasantry. The scrappy resourcefulness of the irresistible Han Alister, who born to nothing, claws his way up from the filthy streets of Ragmarket to the pinnacle of society, and straight into a princess’s heart, will keep you riveted. In a nutshell—this series is EPIC on a grand scale.
But while it is epic, it is also detailed and full of the minute observations of intensely thorough character building. It is rare to find such a rollicking adventure, filled with so much nuanced human interaction and their complications. Cinda William Chima’s characters are neither all good nor all bad, in my opinion, one of the series’ great strengths. Nothing is black and white. In Chima’s villains there is good, and in her heroes, ruthlessness and a willingness to make hard choices. There are many characters whose true intentions are a mystery, such as Queen Marianna, the dashing young wizard Micah Bayar, Reid Nightwalker, Cat, the street waif, Fiona, Princess Mellony, and the embittered Adam Gryphon. It’s not really clear until the end whom the true villains are. Even the arch nemesis of the book, the ultimate villain of the Realm, the Demon King himself, is not what he seems.
The CRIMSON CROWN is a breathtaking, action-filled and heart-rending conclusion to a thrilling series. And for me, under the adventure, fantasy and world building is the very large and full heart of this writer, who is clearly telling us something about our own world.

I can go on and on, but I think it’s time I give Cinda a chance to speak for herself. Please excuse me if my questions range from the esoteric to the extremely lowbrow. I’m trying to ask questions no one has asked her before!

Cinda, I detect a fair amount of allegory in your series. We have very diverse and intolerant cultures squabbling amongst themselves in the Realms for centuries, until finally an open-minded queen steps forward to try to bring them together. There is Han Alister’s tale, the destitute thief who fights his way into the upper-crust of society, finding it even more treacherous than the dangerous streets of his criminal past. Also, there is the lie—the false myth on which a thousand years of enmity is based—the tale of the Demon King.  I won’t give that secret away, but tell us, Cinda, what are some of the themes you are touching on in your books? What’s on your mind?
I’m a strong believer in the notion that theme comes from story and not the other way around. In other words, story comes from the desires of characters and not the desires of the author. That said, certain themes surface in my novels over and over. For example, how we are often imprisoned by history and so commit the same mistakes over and over. I do believe that unfettered power corrupts, which is why my wizard characters are so often arrogant and corrupt. I’m fascinated by how resilient some people are—in real life and so in story. Han Alister is a character who survives many setbacks and tragedies, and somehow finds a way to move forward.

What cultures influenced the different peoples in the Seven Realms? What geographic terrain inspired the landscape?
In order to be believable, a fantasy world has to be coherent and integrated—all the elements of setting have to work together. So when I developed the mountainous queendom of the Fells, I thought about what kind of people would thrive there, and how they would make a living. They wouldn’t be farmers primarily, because agriculture is difficult in that terrain. And so they’re miners, and metal-workers, and artists.  They have to be traders, because they trade for products they can’t produce themselves. The clans owe a lot to indigenous peoples everywhere, but especially to the First Peoples of the Americas.
Fantasy landscapes are, of course, based on the real world. It’s those sensory details from real life that make the world real to the reader. I have never been to the Seven Realms, but I’ve been to the Canadian Rockies, and to Yellowstone, and to New Zealand. I use photographs, journals, and memories from travel to build new worlds.

Now for the lowbrow gushing fangirl question: What actor would play Han Alister in a movie? How about Raisa? Micah? Amon? (Can you tell how attached I am to them?)
I’m not going to be able to help out much there, though I often get sugestions from readers. I have so little knowledge of popular culture, I’m the family joke. I think it would be cool if the cast were made up of relative unknowns, so that the actors could more easily inhabit the skins of my characters.
Han’s street lingo is one of my favorite aspects of the book. It so clearly defines his character and also tracks his transformation from guttersnipe to the most powerful wizard in the Realm. Someone once asked you on your website where the slang comes from. Can you elaborate for us?
Most of the Ragmarket and Southbridge street slang is drawn from actual 17th and 18th century British thieves’ slang, or cant. There are dictionaries online and in print of thieves’ cant. Here’s a link to one site I’ve used extensively. http://www.pascalbonenfant.com/18c/cant/
The important thing with dialect and slang is to use a light hand—otherwise it gets annoying. One of the challenges with Han’s speech is that it changes over the four books. Gradually he loses some of the structures and slang characteristic of Ragmarket cant, and begins to develop speech that can serve him at court.
I know you have another series, the Warrior Heir Series. Can you tell us about this?
The Heir Chronicles is a contemporary fantasy trilogy set in Ohio, beginning with The Warrior Heir. I began writing this series when my sons were 13 and 16. I wanted to write something they would enjoy reading, and so I wrote a story about a high school student in Ohio who learns he is among the last of a guild of magical warriors being hunted by wizards to play in a deadly tournament known as the Game. I’m currently writing two more novels in that series.
Okay—I just have to ask this. You say on your website that the CRIMSON CROWN is the last book in this series. Does this mean, that perhaps there is another series with the same characters in your future? You mentioned on your website that this book was inspired by an unfinished adult fantasy you’d written. Are you finished with our friend Han Alister, or has his story only just begun?
I have no specific plans to write more Seven Realms books. As soon as I mention more books, people are writing to me asking me when they’ll be released! I guest the best answer is that there are many stories in the Seven Realms, and I would not be surprised if I ended up back there again. But I’m currently working on two more Heir Chronicles novels. 

Thank you for stopping by, Cinda. It was a total pleasure to have you, and I am already engrossed in THE WARRIOR HEIR.
If you'd like to learn more about Cinda and her books, visit her at:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blog Chain Post #2 From book to movie

These days, so many popular YA and MG books become movies. It seems to me sometimes that the YA community is sort of like a movie think-tank, fermenting the best ideas for adaptation. And of course it's every writers' dream to see their movie on the big screen. (After all, it's like the movie is already in our heads, right?)

People's opinions on this vary. Many refuse to see a film based on a movie until they've read it, and just as many read the book after. Movies increase readership, no matter how you slice it. And of course, there are those that say the movie can never measure up to the book.

I personally can't think of too many instances that are more successful than Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I can't even imagine the pressure on the film-makers not to disappoint their loyal fans. And I think the verdict is in--the Harry Potter movies cemented the series place as a classic of the early 21st century. And I haven't met too many people who would complain that the Hunger Games movie was a failure. The casting, in my opinion, was pure genius--and so, another dynasty was born. In fact, my own daughter who at age 16 had never had the faintest interest in the books that I gobbled up so voraciously I had to ration my reading time, went ahead and read all three books nearly as quickly. So did so many of my college age students. In fact, my graphic design tutor, a young man in his early twenties, was so taken with the series, that after seeing the movie, started dressing just a bit like Katniss.

But, in the wrong hands a poorly done movie can be devastating and embarrassing. A good example of that is the Eragon movie. It really could have been done so much better. Another one that I found disappointing was Bridge to Terabithia. I hadn't read the book and found the movie to be totally different from the way it was marketed.

And guess what I'm not going to be talking about. Yep, that's right. Twilight.

Apparently there are a whole slew more on the way. Here is a blog listing of some popular YA books that have been optioned to film, some with release dates, and some seemingly in limbo.

http://www.imdb.com/list/55hyZLG1FlI/http://www.imdb.com/list/55hyZLG1FlI/

So how about you? What are some of your favorites? Clunkers? What book would you like to see on the big screen? The book I would love to see as a movie is The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater.

So please check out Katrina Lantz, who precedes me on the chain, and Michele McLean who follows me (and will probably be posting like now, since I am late).

Just wanted to give you a heads up. On Tuesday, on the release day of her final book in the Seven Realms series, THE CRIMSON CROWN, I will be posting an exclusive interview with Cinda Williams Chima!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing blog tagfest

 I was asked by my friend Christine Fonseca (aka The Energizer Bunny) to participate in this blog tag event detailing what we are all working on, so here goes.

What is the working title of your book? Exceptional

Where did the idea come from for the book?
From my life


What genre does your book fall under?
young adult magical reality


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
hmmm. no idea!



What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? A ghost in the art closet haunts an insecure artist geek

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have an agent


How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I haven't written more than seven chapters!


What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Oh, um. My own book--Breaking Glass?


Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I always wanted to rewrite my own sorry high school experience from an adult perspective.


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Romance? Mystery? Clues in the art closet?

 I'm tagging

Colleen Kosinski
Jennifer Allis Provost
Michelle McLean
Christine Fonseca

Oh, and stay tuned for some other interesting things in the works very soon. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

My adventures in book cover design

I've been a graphic designer for many, many years. As a matter of fact, my day job is teaching graphic design at Bronx Community College where I have my students create their own cover designs. But it's only been recently that I've delved into the world of cover design myself. After getting the the amazing opportunity from my publisher, SPENCER HILL PRESS, to design my own cover, I've gone on to do quite a few more for them. The above cover for the forthcoming book, AWOKEN, is the first of the SHP covers to be revealed. Expect more to come.

Cover design, the way we do it at SHP, is a fascinating process.  At SHP, it's a collaboration between the editor, the author and me. We really listen to what the author wants and try to represent the spirit of the book as authentically as possible. It's an incredibly exciting process. In some cases, I've only been given the blurb, as in the case with AWOKEN. In other cases, I've read the whole manuscript. It really depends on how long it takes me to grasp the fundamentals of the book.

It took a lot of comps for me to get this book right. I really had no idea how to portray this rather complex tale. Below, I've posted the final comp that became the cover you see above. What we do is find low rez images from stock photography houses and play around with them until we capture the right mojo. I've yet to set up a photo shoot, though SHP is open to that possibility. I guess it's my roots as an illustrator that drives me to combine multiple images to get the effect I am looking for. And of course, the final touch is the typography, something all my students at BCC know I am absolutely adamant and exacting about. (I give some of them type nightmares). For the final, the high rez images are purchased, and then the cover has to be rebuilt from scratch to look as similar to the comp as possible, and of course, cleaner, crisper and better.

If you want to see more of my cover designs, and keep up to date with new work as it is released, you can check out my page on here, or visit my Facebook designer page at:

http://www.facebook.com/LisaAmowitzCoverDesigns?fref=ts

This is the final rough comp made of low rez images.
You can even see the stock houses watermark if you look closely enough.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Blog Chain Post #1 WHAT'S IN A CHARACTER NAME?


I used to be of the mind that character names are extremely important. I have always chosen mine very carefully, probably even more carefully than I named my own children. Names do shape personality, so, to that end, I always thought, a character’s name is critical.
For instance, in my very first book, a book I have buried in a very deep dark hole never to be unearthed again (even my agent begged me to let her read it and I wisely refused) I still love my character’s name. The mc was named Will and basically, his name was a pretty concise characterization of his personality. He had a very strong Will! And you know what his love interest’s name was? Faith! Oh, but the book was a hot mess. I couldn’t even tell you what genre it was.
I have two other characters from shelved books whose names I love so much, that one I am bringing one of them back in a different book. That would be mysterious and stormy Xavier. Man, I love that name, and I love that character! The other character whose name I felt fit the sweet gentle soul of a poet was Mateo. And because I love that character and the name to go with it, I do plan to bring him back.
But, my favorite character name is the mc of my forthcoming book, Breaking Glass. That would be the ironic and troubled Jeremy Glass, and I have to say, his name came before anything else. It just seemed to fit.
But do names really matter all that much? 
When I first started reading the Hunger Games, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around those names! Katniss Everdeen?? Peeta? Gale for a guy? They were just so odd, and seemingly random. And now they are household names. In a lesser book, they might have been borderline ridiculous.
I am currently reading a wonderful fantasy series by Cinda Williams Chima *psst--interview coming in a few weeks* called The Seven Realms series. The main characters have complicated, almost clunky names that bothered me at first. The male main character is named Han, and the female is named Raisa. I don’t particularly care for the names as they are not every lyrical or descriptive in my opinion. However, after the third chapter, I ceased caring. Han, simply became Han. Though the name told me very little about this complex mc, eventually, his multi-faceted character defined the name!
And what about Harry Potter? I don’t believe there is a book I can site with better and more appropriate names. Severus Snape? Please, someone do better than that. Delores Umbridge, is perhaps my favorite. The names add color and wit to the tale, and enhance the whimsical world of JK Rowling.
So, the verdict? Write a great character and weave an excellent tale, and the name will come to fit the character rather than the other way around.
 For further reading, here are some links to other articles on character names.


And do be sure to stop by and visit the blog chainers for more reflections on character names
 Visit Katrina Lantz the previous link in this chain!
and be sure to pay a visit to Michelle McLean, the next link in the chain. She posts on Monday!

By all! See you round the blogosphere!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

More cool things coming!

This month two of the covers I designed for Spencer Hill Press are going to be revealed. On Monday, look for Awoken, a super cool middle grade fantasy, and Extracted, a steampunk YA. I'm really excited about the covers, and I'm also really excited about the books!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What's coming up on the blog: A new blog chain, blog tag and interview with Cinda WIlliiams Chima

Let's see..I am now part of a blog chain with my good friend Michelle McLean a bunch of other awesome authors. Look for my first post in this chain later this week. Also, I'm in a blog tag with Christine Foneeca.

Also, I have another interview and this is a really hot one. I'm going to be talking to one of my fave authors, Cinda Williams Chima, author of the super-great SEVEN REALMS fantasy series (THE DEMON KING, THE EXILED QUEEN, THE GREY WOLF THRONE). The fourth book in the series, THE CRIMSON CROWN is due out in October and I can't wait. Meanwhile, to whet your appetites, how about a look at the cinematic, theater quality trailer for the book.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Cover Reveal for "Stalked by Death" and shameless shout out for Spencer HIll Press

First, let me just give a shout out to Kate Kaynak and the wonderful people at my publishing house, Spencer Hill Press. They were just written up in Publisher's Weekly and now the world will know just how awesome they are!

Read the article here:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/53846-new-hampshire-s-spencer-hill-press-expands.

And now for that cover reveal:

Stalked by Death
Jodi knows that any slip-ups made by the Ophi--a special group of necromancers born under the 13th sign of the zodiac--will fall on her shoulders... and that Hades is just waiting for them to screw up so he can wipe out the Ophi line.

When the only Ophi Jodi can convince to come to the school and train with her is a gorgeous guy named Chase, it spells more than trouble for Jodi and Alex. Her mixed emotions for both guys send her powers surging out of control, and she begins raising the dead without even meaning to. Jodi doesn't want to lose Alex, but Chase is offering her something Alex can't. His very touch enhances her powers, making her stronger than any Ophi ever has been--maybe even powerful enough to stop Hades from threatening them all. But Chase's offering comes with a huge price. One that may cost Jodi everything she has.


Jodi needs to figure things out fast--because death is stalking her at every turn.


The first book of the series, Touch of Death will be released in January 2013... and the launch party will be a ZOMBIE PROM in Boston! Keep an eye out for news of the coming aPROMcalypse (you know you want to be a "prombie").

Title: Stalked by Death
Series Touch of Death (#2)
Author: Kelly Hashway
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press (www.spencerhillpress.com) Please feel free to use any images, text, links, etc. from our website.

ISBN: 978-1-937053-56-7
Release Date: July 23, 2013

Formats: Paper, e-book

If you'd like to request an ARC, please use the reviewer form on our website. ARCs will ship next spring (Touch of Death ARCs will ship in the next two weeks).

Friday, July 27, 2012

Interview with Jennifer L. Armentrout, YA rising star

From Jennifer's website:
Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you've heard about her state aren't true. She is the author of the COVENANT Series (Spencer Hill Press), the LUX Series (Entangled Publishing), and the upcoming YA contemporary mystery/thrillers DON'T LOOK BACK (Disney/Hyperion Fall 2013) and yet untitled book (Disney/Hyperion tentative Fall 2014).

I first heard of Jennifer when I signed with Spencer Hill Press this past February and I was astounded by all of the buzz about her online and the sheer volume of books she had coming out. I wanted to know-who is this woman who has sold fourteen books and why hadn't I heard of her? So staggered was I that I immediately downloaded her free novella from SHP, Daimon from her Covenant series (not to be confused with the mc from her Lux series, Daemon) to see what all the fuss was about. I was really taken in by the pace, the humor and the kick-ass sassiness of her heroine, Alex and bought Half Blood. I liked it, started reading and then got distracted by a million other things and read it a few pages here and there. Then I was lucky enough to get an arc of Obsidian at the BEA and-started reading and was instantly HOOKED. Like could not put down hooked. From the great dialogue to the steaming romance, to the coolness factor of a love story between an alien and an ordinary gir—to be honest, I was surprised how much I did love it. I went on to read Pure, book #2 in Covenant and downloaded Shadows, the very touching and heartbreaking prequel to Obsidian which helped me to understand exactly why Daemon acts like such a jerk. Am I a fan girl yet? You bet I am--and I even met Jennifer at BEA, know she is a normal human being, and yet..

I've since been trying to figure out why Jennifer's books are as addictive as chocolate ice cream and I have a few ideas.

For one thing, her characters, though perhaps better looking than your average human (or alien) are far from perfect. In Half Blood of the Covenant series, Alexandria has serious anger issues and loves to punch things that piss her off. Her love interest Aiden seems perfect, but isn't sure if he wants to risk everything to be with Alex. Oh, and then there is the narcissistic demi-god Seth, who has all of the best lines. You gotta love him and Alex's love/hate relationship with him.

In Obsidian,Daemon is quite plainly, uber-hot, but obnoxious, and Kat is kind of a lovable nerd and book blogger who is no shrinking violet. So while the characters are a bit larger than life, they also have very distinctive personalities which comes through in their behavior and dialogue.
Her plots are breakneck exciting. You never know what's coming.

Then there is the humor. All of Jennifer's characters have great lines, and I often found myself guffawing out loud. Okay—I'm too lazy to point any out—so you will have to read one or all of her books yourself!

That being said, what I really wanted to explore here is how Jennifer did all of this in such a short amount of time. How any human being writes so much, all of it terrific. I'm not even sure where to start, so bear with me.

1. When did you start writing?
As cliche as this sounds, I've been writing since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I started wit poetry and i really sucked at that. I moved on to writing short stories and then when I was in the 8th and 9th grade, I wrote my first full length novel by longhand. It was called The Forbidden Ones and I'm pretty sure that sucked also. But I've been writing as long as I remember.

2. What was your journey like from aspiring author to published?
It wasn't the typical path. I started off like almost everyone does, searching for an agent for Half-Blood. That book also had about a 1,000 different titles, but I queried about 30 agents before I realized that my query was so bad it was embarrassing. I found the website Query Tracker, which helped me write a good query. Off I that, I got partial and full requests from agents, but after about a 100 queries-- Yes, a 100-- I trunked the book. Meanwhile, I'd been working on Cursed (and guys, always be working on something else). There was this query contest being run by Spencer Hill Press. I entered the Cursed query in their contest, but actually submitted the Half-Blood query to them as a submission. They asked for a partial and then the full, and within a day, they made an offer of publication. I owe pretty much everything to them, because they were willing to take a chance on a book I pretty much put on the shelf. From there, I sold Cursed to SHP (9/2012) and an adult title to Entangled (Unchained 10/2012). Obsidian came next, and around that time I gained representation from one of the agents I'd been Internet stalking the whole time. Through Kevan Lyon, I went out on submission with another YA, a contemporary mystery/thriller that sold to Disney/Hyperion along with another title in a pre-empt. If my path tells aspiring writers anything, there is NO ONE path or traditional path. Things have a way of working out, even if you don't start off like others do.

3. You are a social media genius. Any promotion tips for other authors out there?
Ha. I wouldn't consider myself a genius at it. I like to talk and connect with people, so that helps. Do what you feel comfortable with and don't make it about selling your book. I think where aspiring authors go wrong is that all their tweets and stuff is links to buy their books. It's like they're just robots who tweet buy me links. That's a huge turn off.

4. Tell us about your process. How much time do you spend writing each day?
Writing is my career, so I treat it like one. I dedicate time every day. Every. Day. There really is no such thing as weekends for me. I usually write anywhere from 6 to 10 hours a day. When I start to go cross-eyed or stir crazy, I take a break. There are days when I don't want to write and unless it's a serious case of "I don't wanna" I make myself do it. Setting goals help.

5. How long does it take you to write a book?
It really varies. The quickest I've ever written a book was about 7 days (Obsidian) and the longest it has taken me is about 2 to 3 months. Several things factor into that-- how big the story is, the plot and pacing and if there are issues with that, and if I have other things going on. The story pretty much determines how long it will take.

Thanks for having me!


You are so welcome Jennifer! It's been a pleasure.
If you would like to learn more about Jennifer and the worlds she has created, visit her at:
http://www.jenniferarmentrout.com/